Today's demolition is tomorrow's nostalgia

  • Updated: June 9, 2012 - 8:04 PM

Jessica Kohen

Those who forget the past are doomed to be reminded that we tore it down, and sometimes the reminder comes in the form of a press release. Jessica Kohen works for the Minnesota Historical Society, which abounds in exhibits and programs, and it's her job to publicize the history of Gopher civilization. More than that, though, she's one of those people who's been telling you stories for years, and you've never met. Let's change that.

So how did you get here?

"From TV! I grew up in San Diego, and my first job was in Las Vegas as a line producer for a TV station. Telling stories. I ended up moving to Minnesota to Channel 5, and then I was courted by Channel 4, where I did everything -- the 5 p.m., the 6 p.m., the weekend news -- and then I went to Channel 2, where I produced a show called 'Dragonfly TV,' a science program for middle-school teens."

When the funding ran out, as funding is wont to do, that left Channel 11 for the clean sweep, but she had a master's degree in history on her shelf, collecting dust. So off to the Historical Society, where the deadlines are less pressing, and you don't have to worry if you have film to go with the story of the 1858 statehood ceremony. It's not that different from television.

"In all my work, it's all about telling stories -- in news programs, in TV shows, and now the stories of this place."

Is there any type of story that's just quintessentially Minnesotan?

"You mean, besides weather?" she said, laughing. "Every year. Every season. It's the story." And sometimes it's a grim one: "The saddest day of the year is coming up in a few weeks, you know. June 21." She doesn't have to say any more. That's when the days start to shorten. Quick, change the subject.

How's our sense of our history compared to places she's lived? Surely we beat her California home, where nothing's old. "I take exception to that," she chided. "I think Los Angeles and Southern California value their history as much as we do." But L.A. razed Bunker Hill, that sprawling old area downtown.

"And Minneapolis razed the Met!" In retrospect, I don't know if she means the Met Stadium or the Metropolitan Building -- but, guilty on both counts. "And the Gateway, too."

OK, OK. Jeez. But we're better than Las Vegas, right? They have no respect for their history.

"I worked in a newsroom, remember. Casino implosions were a really big deal. Implosions are fun."

True. If only we had a few around here. Oh, wait: Perhaps in a few decades she'll be sending out another release from the Historical Society: "Twenty Years After the Metrodome, a Fond Look Back." Whether that refers to the building or the implosion, well, we'll have to wait for the brochure.

JAMES LILEKS

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